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September 3, 2015

MythBusters: Cell Phones on Planes

by Keith McDuffee, posted Mar 20th 2006 11:15PM
mythbustersAlright, so I've been a bit lax in my coverage of MythBusters lately. Well, I'm going to try to change all of that by covering my TiVo'ed copy of last week's episode of the show and give you ar rundown of the myths covered and whether they were busted or not.

Myths in this episode: Helium Filled Raft and Cell Phones on Planes.

Helium Filled Raft
Myth: A raft filled with helium will not only float itself, but allow a passenger to fly.
Result: Busted using conventional rafts, but of course the MythBusters don't end there. A few calculations tell them that they'd need one heck of a huge "raft" to lift one person, so of course they manage to build one themselves, though it's clearly the larges thing the team has ever built. And since that raft totally fails, the team agrees that this myth is busted, big time.

Cell Phones on Planes
Myth: Cellphones don't interfere with plane instrumentation -- it's a conspiracy to get passengers to pay the higher priced in-flight phones.
Result: Using a faraday cage to block outside interference, the MythBusters set up a few common instruments from jetliners inside while using a cellphone. At 800-900MHz (a common cellphone bandwidthfrequencies), there's definite interference on some of the aircraft instrumentation. Because of federal law, they can't test in the air, though they're able to do so on a grounded private plane., and the tests there show no interference at all. The MythBusters call the conspiracy busted because they believe the airlines are simply not taking any chances with cellphones, since new ones with new frequencies are coming out every day.

Quote of the episode: Adam, in a very helium-high voice: "Once, in every generation, a myth comes along that does not thrill us. Ha ha ha ha haaaa!"

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On the show where yall tried to see if there is something you can do to fool the breathalizer machine,, well there is a way,, dont know if you want everyone to know what it is,, but it worked for me once,,, it wont show u sober ,, but it wont show anything at all,, little did i know that they cant make you take it 2 and 3 times,, but chew a cigerette in the ride to cop shop,, and swallow,, I proved it would work,,

thanks,, cajunsweety

December 21 2007 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As to your test, a single phone may or may not cause interference as you saw, but multiple phones operating at different frequencies (800, 900, 1800 & 1900MHz.) can mix with each other to create other frequencies and which can also increase the probablility of causing issues with aviation instrumentation.

One other item, most of the planes manufactured in the last 10 years are now using wirless transponders and not wiring harnesses to communicate with the planes sensors. This is even more of an issue especially when planes travel into areas not natiative to where the plane was designed or manufactured as different countries have different frequency allocations.

The FAA and FCC are doing the right thing by restricting the use on board aircraft.

April 02 2006 at 10:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A note about terminology. You say, "at 800-900MHz (a common cellphone bandwidth)...." You should say "frequency". Those numbers mean that the waves coming out of the radio oscillate 800 million to 900 million times per second. Bandwidth is something completely different. Somehow a word, bandwidth, which was never spoken by anyone except electrical engineers, started being used by the public. It reminds me of how so many people use the word "schizophrenic" thinking that it means "multiple personality disorder". I don't know how that happened, since it doesn't mean that at all.

March 21 2006 at 1:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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